"Ten years ago, affordability and taste were the sole top motivators behind America’s food and beverage choices: if it was tasty and good for the wallet, it was on the plate. Health - while always a consideration for some - has become a much more mainstream consideration in the interim, joining other demands like convenience, authenticity, and sustainability on the table," said Tastewise CEO Alon Chen in the report.
To determine its trends for the year ahead, Tastewise used two-year, year-over-year data (2YoY), comparing 2021 to pre-pandemic 2019.
"Trends that not only weathered the initial storm of disruption caused by the public health crisis, but evolved to meet changing consumer needs, are worth watching," the report read.
Tastewise added that its trends go beyond the "usual suspects" of high level, macro-trends (e.g. plant-based, functional food as concept) that most in the industry are already aware of, and spotlights eight more under-the-radar and "off-the-beaten-path" trend moments.
1. Rise of sea moss
With more than one-third (33%) of consumers turning to food and beverage to meet their individual health needs, sea moss -- which contains high levels of zinc and folate -- will reach peak popularity in 2022 and onwards, according to Tastewise.
The company observed that mentions and social conversations around sea moss were up +384% in 2021 compared to 2019, primarily because of the sea vegetable's purported health associations as a fertility booster for women.
Other trending functional ingredients in the report included passionflower (for sleep improvement), rhodiola (for gut health), and starfruit (for energy).
2. 'Real' sustainability news
According to Tastewise, consumers are growing keenly aware of which brands are communicating their sustainable practices and are more sensitive to 'eco-washing' of products.
"Sustainability is trending +24% 2YoY with a special interest in regenerative farming (+187% 2YoY), habitat conservation (+53% 2YoY) and carbon footprint (+31% 2YoY)," noted Tastewise.
Micronutrients including adaptogens, electrolytes, postbiotics (+2,355% 2YoY), and nootropics (+187%) 2YoY) are taking center stage in packaged food and beverages, according to Tastewise.
"As information on nootropic and postbiotic benefits becomes more available, interest in these micronutrients extends beyond the niche: Female, Millennial, and Gen X consumers all currently show higher YoY growth in interest in the category than nutrition-oriented audiences," said Tastewise.
4. Chutney, chamoy, and chicory
Latin American, Caribbean, and Indian regional cuisines are growing in consumer interest nationwide prompting a rise in each region's distinct cuisines including chutney, chamoy, and chicory.
"With global events prompting unpredictable shifts in travel restrictions, people are using the kitchen to explore different cultures - and are diving deep into regional cuisines. Those who are able to travel tap into the rise of 'slow tourism', taking advantage of unique, local culinary experiences in their vacation destination - then replicating those experiences in their home kitchen upon return," said Tastewise.
5. Edible flowers
Tastewise forecasted that floral (+89% 2YoY) and zesty (+63%) 2YoY) flavor profiles will dominate, particularly in gourmet settings.
"Floral is particularly prized for its aesthetic nature; zesty, often associated with citrus, sees an increased association with vitamin C, a key player in immunity-boosting food & beverage. Yuzu, a zesty citrus, is especially trending +26% YoY."
6. Oyster mushrooms
Tastewise also forecasted that king oyster mushrooms - which have great texture for food applications and health properties - will rise in popularity and usage in the next year, especially in the alternative protein sector.
7. 'Swicy, swalty,' and sweet fusion flavor profiles
According to the report, sweet is being increasingly combined with other flavor profiles as people experiment with adding new twists to traditional pantry staples.
"From spicy honeys to unexpected ice cream flavors, consumers (and brands) will get even more adventurous with their sweet tooth," mentioned Tastewise.
Lastly, there has been a notable increased consumer interest (+41% in the last two years) in mochi, the sweet Japanese rice-based treat, noted Tastewise.
Best known in freezer section at many US supermarkets, mochi baked goods are now on an upward trend (+79%) over the past two years, according to the report.
- Read the full report